Earlier today, the Southeast Michigan RTA, or Regional Transit Authority, unveiled a $4.6 billion new plan for a regional public transportation system. The plan is a response to over two dozen failed transit plans and aims to connect the four-country Southeast Michigan area. We’ve got your need-to-know info on the plan.

The plan’s changes won’t happen all at once

Regional Map

Lest we get ahead of ourselves in our bright, starry-eyed visions of a more connected region, it’s important to remember that the plan’s changes won’t all happen overnight, or even this year. The first of the RTA’s proposed service implementations will happen in 2017. They include express service on Woodward Ave and Gratiot Ave (Pre-BRT), paratransit and mobility management, and DTW Airport express service.

It has to be approved by voters first

While the idea of a new, comprehensive transit plan for the Southeast Michigan area is exciting, it has to be formally approved by the RTA board. Once the plan is approved, likely at the board’s meeting on July 21, it will go to voters in the four-country RTA region in November.

In November, voters will decide on whether or not to pass a 1.2 mill, 20-year property tax millage to pay for the changes in the plan. If the millage is passed, it would start in 2017.

It will cost homeowners about $8 a month

A 1.2 regional transit millage is a $1.2 property tax for every $1,000 of assessed value of a home. The millage that voters will decide on will add an expense to property taxes each year. A homeowner who has a home assessed at $78,856, the regional average, will pay about $95 per year, or less than $8 per month. Homes that are assessed at $100,000 would add an extra $120 per year to property taxes.

This new millage would be on in addition to the millages for property owners in areas served by SMART and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

It’s not just about the city of Detroit

Regional Transit Plan

While transportation in the Metro Detroit area will play a large part in the new plan, the ultimate goal is to connect the four-county region of Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. Right now, different transit service providers for different areas require multiple transfers to cross the region. With the new plan, transit across the counties could be seamless, which, according to one of our writers, is exactly what Detroit’s mass transit needs.

The plan would expand bus service in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas, but it would also help connect major commuter routes, including the creation of a commuter rail between Ann Arbor and the Amtrak station in Detroit’s New Center.

Despite the larger impact the plan is expected to have, many local service improvements are slated to happen in the first five years of the plan. Other services like bus rapid transit and commuter rail would happen from 2022-2026.

You’ll have more transit options

Current Transit

With the new RTA plan comes a slew of great new transit options, both in terms of routes and vehicles. There are plans for cross-county connectors that will offer frequent, seamless service on major regional routes. In addition to increased bus transportation, the RTA plan includes provisions for streetcars (in the form of the QLINE) and a daily regional rail service that will connect Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Finally, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will combine the features of rail (like dedicated lanes and well-designed stations) with that of a bus along the region’s main economic corridors.

Compare these new options to the current, limited local options (seen in the map). Want to really get into the future of Detroit mass transit? Check out this video.

You won’t have to pay for airport parking

Tired of paying sky-high fees for airport parking? If the RTA’s plan is approved, you might not have to. One of the new services in the plan is an airport express service that will provide convenient, affordable, and comfortable service to the airport from destinations throughout the region. Services to the airport will be offered from Ann Arbor, Downtown Detroit, Macomb County, Oakland County, I-275, and Ypsilanti.

The plan is expected to be great for the regional economy

Regional Transit Plan

This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but it’s important to highlight. The new RTA plan will bring increased connectivity and economic development to the Southeast Michigan area. The RTA estimates that over the next 20 years, the plan will have a $6 billion economic development impact, directly support 67,000 new jobs, and increase personal income by $4.4 billion.

It will boost spending on transit, but not by that much compared to other regions

Regional Transit Spending

Right now, the four-country region invests less in public transportation per capita than any other major metropolitan region. In 2014, Southeast Michigan invested about $69 per capita, compared with $471 for Seattle, $357 for Boston, and $283 for Chicago. If the master plan for the region is passed and funded, it will boost transit spending to about $144 per capita.

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